The next cab you take in Beijing just might be electrified... in a good way, mind you. If the 50 electric taxis “currently” cruising the Chinese capital's streets on a trial basis are deemed successful, 1,000 more will be rolled out before the end of 2013. Shocking news indeed!
The cabs themselves are new models: identical e6 electrically-powered sedans made by Chinese automaker BYD. The e6's BYD-developed Fe batteries are made in China, come with a 10-year warranty, and produce a projected top speed of 87mph. BYD states that the e6 is “one of the longest-range, pure EVs in the world”... the 75kW motor and the use of regenerative braking technology providing a range of 186 miles on a single charge in urban conditions.
The initial batch of 50 zero-emissions cabs are based in Changping, a suburban district about 34 km (21 mi) northwest of central Beijing. On their own, neither the silent starter fleet or the full complement of around 1,000 electric cabs will hardly dent the amount of air pollution caused by auto emissions, let alone those traceable to taxis: roughly 66,000 cabs are in operation as you're reading this.
It IS a start, however, and if all goes well there's little to hold back future expansion of the electric taxi program. One of those sticking points is the lack of charging stations, which is why Changping was chosen for the electric taxi's introduction: the district's infrastructure is more amenable to the quick & easy installation of taxi-charging stations compared with that of downtown Beijing.
With that said, plans are in the works to beef up the charging station grid in pace with the expansion of electric taxi service. In addition, it's intended that the new electric cabs will be privately owned, with driver/owners receiving a 3,000 yuan (just under $500) per month subsidy from the government to help offset expenses and act as an incentive. Not bad for a China that's still officially a communist country! (via Shanghaiist, GBTimes, Autoblog Green, Welcome To China, and China Daily)